On March 21, 2016, a court in the Southern Russian town of Donetsk sentenced Lt. Nadiya Savchenko to twenty-two (22) years in a Russian prison. Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot, was found guilty of complicity in the murder of Anton Voloshin and Igor Kornelyuk, two journalists working for Russian State television who died in an artillery strike during the conflict in east Ukraine in June 2014. Savchenko has consistently denied the charges, and the trial has been dismissed both in Ukraine and internationally as politically motivated.
This sentence brings to a close a controversial court case that is likely to further inflame the difficult relations between Moscow and Kiev. The overall case has been condemned as a show trial in Ukraine as well as in the West. Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia, John Dalhuisen, called the proceedings a “flawed, deeply politicized trial,” and called for a retrial. Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, for his part, stated: “[s]imply put, Nadezhda Savchenko did not get a fair trial, and so her conviction is unsound and should not stand.” He added that “[t]here should be justice for the deaths of Kornelyuk and Voloshin, but justice won’t be served by an unfair trial that was highly politicized from the start.” Similarly, the U.S. Department of State has stated that “[this] conviction and sentencing . . . show[s] a blatant disregard for the principles of justice and contravene[s] Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said after the trial that “Ukraine will never . . . recognize either the kangaroo court of Nadezhda Savchenko, nor its so-called sentencing.” He further said that Putin had promised him some months ago that he would return Savchenko to Ukraine once the trial was over. Poroshenko has also stated that he was prepared to exchange Lt. Savchenko for two men who are allegedly Russian soldiers, and who have been in Ukrainian custody since May 2015. Both men are being tried in Kiev, though Russia’s Defense Ministry has denied they were active soldiers at the time of their capture in east Ukraine.
For more information:
Pangea – https://pangeaupr.org/2015/01/16/ucrania-en-el-2014/ (Background information on Euromaidan 2014)
Human Rights Watch – https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/03/22/russia-ukrainian-pilot-convicted